Have you ever had those moments where you feel unsure about what you are doing with your life and the best way to move forward? I know I have. There are many periods in my life where I feel stuck and completely unsure of what I’m doing. I even look back at my life and wonder if I’ve made a mistake or could have made a better decision instead. Feeling unsure about yourself feels like one of the biggest letdowns in life. You might feel like you are a failure or compare yourself against your peers, feeling like everybody has their life together except you. You might have constant anxiety and feel like you don’t deserve the good things that happened to you. Maybe you’ve had success, but feel it was luck or undeserved. Maybe you feel unsure of your worth and this is a constant struggle in your own life. Or maybe you feel like everyone is judging you and feels like you are a disappointment.
Your lack of certainty may lead you to spend countless hours trying to figure out your life. Personally I find myself making lists, asking friends for advice, going back and forth about the right thing to do, assessing risks and feeling like I’ve made little progress by the next day.
What if I told you that it’s okay, and maybe even a good thing that you are unsure about your life? What if I told you that everybody goes through the exact same experience, not just once, but many times in their life? A couple of people told me this week that they had no idea what they wanted to do in their life. What was my reply? I told them I’m a little envious. I’m envious because they have a world of exploration and possibilities open to them as they go through the exciting yet scary process of figuring out what they want in their life right now.
Being uncertain about your life doesn’t feel great but it is an opportunity to explore yourself and develop habits that help you feel more confident about the best way to move forward and about yourself. Yet there are steps you can take to help you feel more secure as you grow through this journey of insecurity and fear and not let it paint a false picture of your own worth.
1. Negative self-talk happens with everybody but you need to realize it’s false. I’m not going to tell you to stop thinking negatively about yourself. You can try but sometimes it’s tough to block out those thoughts completely. However, you can be aware and conscious of those thoughts but realize that they are false every time. We are our own harshest critics. When you are now aware of those thoughts and do not try to consciously control them, you give those negative thoughts power that will ultimately cripple you. You might have thoughts that tell you that you are not good enough and you’ll never make something of yourself but those thoughts are false. You are good enough! You can achieve what you want! You may not be able to stop the negative thoughts but you need to be aware of them so you can control them. Once you become aware of the negative self-talk you can immediately remind yourself that these thoughts are false. These thoughts are a product of insecurity and fear but not truth. Your negative thoughts are unreliable, so work on taking control so that they don’t control your life anymore.
2. Be honest about your feelings. Many of the people in our life tell us well-intentioned thoughts about how it’s important to be happy and positive. Being happy feels great, but happiness is not a permanent state. It’s okay and actually healthy to feel lost, confused, sad and to feel like you don’t have your life together. Own the feeling and be honest about it to yourself and others. Stop lying to yourself and others and telling them you are happy with your career. Be honest and let them know that you have doubts about your current trajectory in your career and are considering making a change, but you aren’t sure yet what that change is. Tell your loved ones if you are feeling a bit lost in your life. You are not a failure because you aren’t feeling so great about how things are going in your life right now. When you learn to be honest with yourself and others, you’ll spend far less time being dishonest and more time figuring out the best way to move forward and make a change within your life.
3. Take care of yourself. A lack of uncertainty likely stems from you not being kind and loving towards yourself. To take care of yourself, you must be honest. There were periods in my life where I’d stay up all night with my friends going to parties or bars. The next day of the weekend I’d be exhausted and just want to stay inside all day. I’m naturally not the type who enjoys staying out that late regularly (although it is fun every so often) but I was more focused on spending time with my friends and doing what my friends wanted to do. I also did have fun. But because I wasn’t being honest with myself about how this wasn’t something I wanted to do all the time, I ended up spending way more time and energy into activities that were more about what my friends wanted than what I actually wanted for myself. Take a look at your own life and be honest about areas where you aren’t taking care of yourself properly. Maybe you want to travel overseas but keep giving yourself excuses due to work commitments or feeling fear of doing something different. Or maybe you are constantly talking yourself out of doing something nice for yourself because you feel it’s a waste of money and time. Conversely, maybe you spend too much time doing things that you don’t like just to please your family and friends. Maybe you spend far too much money on others and never save some money to just treat yourself. Once you start making a habit out of taking care of yourself, you’ll start to identify the things that truly add value and meaning to your life.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others. I know this is a tough one, especially when comparisons tend to happen almost instantly. You might see that your friend published a book and instantly feel jealous. Or maybe a random acquaintance just got engaged while you are still struggling to find someone that you are even compatible with. The moment you compare; is the moment you need to remember that you don’t know the whole picture. Comparing your achievements to the ones of another is one-sided and a waste of energy. You don’t live this person’s life, you don’t know their struggles and you don’t know how they truly feel about their situation. I interviewed a woman a couple of years ago who had published 3 books by the time she was in her mid-twenties. This is an amazing achievement but for her, she regrets all the books. She felt she rushed through her writing, wasted time not enjoying other aspects in life and feels the books she wrote do not reflect her at all. What others may view as success, she views as a failure.
Another important reason to not compare yourself to others is that everyone has their own journey through life. Everyone has their own habits, thoughts, opinions and things that bring meaning to their life. Their path has nothing to do with your own path. For instance, I’m a very prolific writer and I love working on multiple things at a time. That’s my personality and has nothing to do with anybody else. I know an amazing writer who writes very little and is very passionate about writing. He’s not prolific at all and takes much longer to do things but that works for him and that’s great. There is no reason to compare because we are two different people who have our own journey through life. Once you accept that everyone has their own beautiful way of doing things, you realize that there’s no real way to compare your life to theirs. What matters is how you embark on this journey of life.
5. Work on caring less about what other people think of you. The honest truth is that you will NEVER know what people think about you. Often times our insecurities and fears make us believe that people dislike us when in actuality they don’t. I’ve spent unnecessary negative energy focusing on the fact that certain people don’t like this and that about me, and being surprised years after the fact that these people didn’t feel like that at all. My fears and insecurities made me worry too much about what others think. Since you will never really know what someone thinks about you, it’s important to let their opinions matter less to you. As you focus less on what others think of you, you can focus more on how you feel about yourself and what you want for yourself.
6. Understand that feeling lost is okay. You may be struggling right now for various reasons. Maybe you didn’t get the raise you were expecting this year at your job. Perhaps you went through a breakup, separation or divorce recently. Maybe you have received news about your health that is shocking and making you realize that you don’t know where your life is at right now. Whatever the reason, having struggles and difficulties is a normal part of life. Life is designed to be full of challenges and struggles, and that’s okay. Feeling lost is ultimately what will allow you to grow. Uncertainty also teaches you a valuable lesson that your journey does not consist of one path to happiness and meaning. Just because this one thing isn’t working out, doesn’t mean that your life is stuck or miserable. You will get through this chapter in your life.
7. True success is being authentic and living authentically. Try to not get wrapped up in what success is to other people or society. True success is not measured by what you have achieved or the material things that you have. You can lose material possessions at any point. You may own a successful business this year but may lose it all the following year. You might be in the best job of your life right now, and be laid off a few months later. Material possessions are not a true measurement of success. You are successful if you are being authentic and living a life that mirrors that authenticity. It’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out. It’s okay if you don’t know what to do for a career or are not sure what the best decision is for you. That doesn’t make you a failure. You are a success. Being true to who you are is the best measure of success. Focus on your actions and how you grow since that is the best indicator of your success.
Feeling unsure of yourself is scary but also normal. Many, many people are searching for a similar understanding about their own life. Work on appreciating and loving who you are. Be honest with yourself and live authentically through your actions and feelings. You will discover and appreciate your worth as a result. Just be patient because like all good things in life, finding certainty in this chapter of your life takes time. You are making progress everyday so focus on what you did today, appreciate that thing and keep taking steps forward.